Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Get Organized!!!

Paperwork was a daily deluge at the Lincoln school. Previous schools had only sent general info with the oldest child or sent an email – here we had everything twice and numerous ‘Urgent!’ emails from the Class Mom. The PTA was very active with a monthly agenda already set up, while the Class Moms organized the school trips, indoor lunchtime activities and sent memos from the teachers. I declined to join them.

Marc was told to ‘get organized’ and set up a desk for his homework. The teacher called me in to explain the class books, so I would know whether Marc had the right one (he rarely did). There were at least 6 classbooks that ferried back and forth every night for homework. It seemed be asking a lot of a nine-year-old. Class meetings were held with impressive targets, aims and goals. To my horror I discovered the American system is three 12-week semesters with no breaks in between, give or take the odd long holiday weekend. The year ends in mid-June, with an excessively long 10-week summer vacation. Where were all the nice half-term holidays for short family trips and having visitors? How would we survive?

From Week 1 homework was a challenge. Big chunks of science chapters to copy or learn, a book to read and a review per week, grammar that made me think twice and tricky math worksheets often with no answers (mean for parents!). On top of that there was a monthly ‘speech’ contest, where Marc was marked for presentation and style.

At first I thought it was just that Marc and Nina’s English was weak and they would soon catch up. But as the hours of homework stretched to three or more each night I was as weepy and tired as them. We were not finished sometimes until 10pm. Plus I had no maid now and Gabriel must be entertained till Jacques came in, and dinner needed to be cooked…and when could they play or get some fresh air?

A few weeks into the first semester the 4th Grade parents called a meeting to protest about the high workload, so it wasn’t just me. I had not dared mention my personal struggles to any other parents. Parents loudly complained of ‘reading burn-out’, depression, kids faking sicknesses, over-tiredness and insomnia and suchlike. The teachers listened impassively. At the end of all the moans the Principal tersely told us that this was a Top SATS scoring school, and the children must work at home to complete the curriculum. The message was if you don’t like it go someplace else….so the parents backed down and shut up. But why not stay at school till 5pm if there was so much work to be done? Why ask so much of the parents? What would become of these burned-out pre-adolescents when they finally got to university and had no-one to help them with their work?

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